The Great Ocean Road Part 1

Trip Start Nov 27, 2010
Trip End Dec 12, 2011

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Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Thursday, April 14, 2011

So today would finally be then day that we would hit the Great Ocean Road. Another pretty early start and the weather had really decided to pick itself up and the sun was shining gloriously.

We stopped at a little nature park at the beginning of our drive. It gave us the chance to climb up to the top of a rather large hill and look towards the coast, although at that point the weather was still a little misty.  We then drove a little further road the coast and through the City of  Warrnambool which is on the south-western coast of Victoria and is near the western end of the Great Ocean Road (but not quite there yet).

We weren't planning on seeing to much but our guide book suggested taking a look at Logan's Beach.  The beach itself was beautiful (if deserted) and we took a stroll along a whale watching platform on the edge of the beach that is used to view Southern Right Whales which arrive between late May to August and give birth to their young.  No whales in sight for us today so we set off again, keen to take advantage of the sun.

Just after we left Warrnambool we finally joined the Great Ocean Road - a 243-kilometer (151 mi) stretch of road along the south-eastern coast of Australia between the cities of Warrnambool and Torquay. The road was built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932, and is the world's largest war memorial; dedicated to casualties of World War I.  It felt good to finally be on the road and even better that the weather was good. 

Not long after we joined the road we saw a sign for 'Cheese World' which we decided we just had to stop at!  Inside was, at the name might suggest, a selection of cheeses and meats.  We waited around for a tasting session and then purchased our lunch. 

The road itself hugs the coastline and traverses rain-forest as well as limestone and sandstone beaches and cliffs.  The undulating road and constantly shifting terrain make for a very enjoyable drive and we were more than happy to take it easy to appreciate the scenery.

Places of interest along the coastline started to come into view and first up was the Bay of Martyrs which is a South-West facing bay a couple of K's long with the shoreline is composed predominantly of 10 m high, red limestone bluffs.  We parked up and took a long walk around the top of the bay.  With the sun now shining brightly the sea took on a deep aqua-marine colour and standing on the cliffs looking down we could almost feel how clean the air was.

Moving further up the coast we went through Peterborough which was worth a picture.  As with the States, you're never far from a place that shares its name with somewhere in Britain.  As we had hoped, we never had to travel that far up the road to reach another viewpoint and, as we had plenty of time to spare, we could pull in and take a quick look at all of the bays and beaches on offer.  We stopped at one beach for lunch and got to watch a couple of surfers try their luck in the swell.

As was the case with the Northern Territory, we had to keep our eyes out for the wildlife that could be wandering (or hopping) about and we were constantly reminded by signs letting us know that this area was inhabited by kangaroos and wombats.

Some of the sandstone and limestone formations are given names relating to their shape such as The Grotto, which offered a view out to sea from a sinkhole formation at low tide.  The tide was low when we arrived and we made our way down the winding wooden stairs along the cliff face into the Grotto and managed to take some nice pictures.  London Bridge was another formation named for is structural similarity to, well, London Bridge.  At least it did until the archway that joined it to the land fell into the sea in 1990.

The highlight of the Great Ocean Road, so we heard, was to be a rock formation called the Twelve Apostles and sure enough it appears on every picture of poster of the GOC.  It was late afternoon by the time we were heading towards the Apostles but we were determined to see it in the bright sun.  The Twelve Apostles are a series only 8 limestone stacks in total now and there have only ever been 9 with one collapsing in 2005.

There's a big visitor centre that greets you when you pull in to park and with it being a tourist hot spot the obligatory bus-loads of people began turning up not long after we arrived.  As we arrived in later afternoon, the sun wasn’t as bright as it had been earlier in the day but it was still a beautiful day and the breeze was enough to make it fresh.  We took some pictures and had took a walk along the cliff top before deciding head away to find some accommodation nearby and come back in the morning for sunrise.

We found a quirky little hostel about 5 miles down the road and were lucky enough to be the only people staying there, with a bedroom, lounge and kitchen all to ourselves, which was a great find as it felt like what we needed after dormitories for the past few weeks.  The owner was a nice old chap who suggested that we should head back to the Apostles for sunset.  And how right he was as it turned out to be perfect as the sun sets just to the left of the Apostles when you’re looking at them from straight on. 

The clear sky turned shades of red, orange and yellow so vivid that our camera took a few pictures that seemed almost like they were photo-shopped.  The crowds were still there but not too large as to stop us getting a great view.  We even had a visit from an Echidna, which was the first time we had seen one of them.  They look like a very big hedgehog or a porcupine and this little guy didn’t seem too bothered about wandering around on the path or sticking around while a group gathered to take some photos.

As the sun finally disappeared over the horizon we quickly made our way back to the car to beat the crowds.  Our hostel had a large selection of DVD’s so we picked a couple and sat down for a relaxing evening and an early night.

We were up at the crack of sparrows the next day, fumbling around in the dark to find light switches.  We made it back down to the Apostles for sunrise as well to get our third set of pictures!  Great way to wake up though and makes one jealous of those who get to start every day by the sea.  We took an early morning walk along the beach and after a descent down the 'Gibson Steps’ leading down to the bay before getting into the car for the last leg of our journey on the Great Ocean Road.  
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